The 1970s was a classic time for cinema and The Squeeze (1977) is no exception, even if this film does descend into some pretty politically incorrect sleaze. The less than savoury tone (alongside the fact that it was released in the same year as Star Wars and, well, who could talk about anything else?) is probably responsible for it being ignored for much of the last three decades. 35 years on, however, I’d strongly urge film fans to revisit it as it is undoubtedly a forgotten gem in its own right.
The Squeeze was written by Leon Griffiths, who went on to write the long-running TV series Minder, which treads a lot of the same locations as this film but with more humour and less violence. It was also directed by Michael Apted, he of the 7-Up Series (1964-2012) and P’tang, Yang Kipperbang (1982).
Opening at Paddington Station, we’re introduced to Stacy Keach as Jim Naboth, a booze-ridden ex-cop, staggering through the Bakerloo Line platform until he’s hospitalised.
It transpires that Naboth’s ex-wife Jill and young daughter have been kidnapped by crooks linked to Jill’s new partner, security director Foreman (Edward Fox) and are demanding £1m ransom. Complicating matters, the captors, on the orders of Irish crime boss Vic (Stephen Boyd), demand that Foreman murders Naboth, and to make the kidnapping a success, the crooks force Foreman to become complicit in robbing from his employers.
As with a lot of great crime films, London plays its part with some of the sleazier locations being shown as unrecognizable thirty years later, and, which at the time, were probably no-go areas: run-down-pubs surrounded by towering council estates, narrow streets and confined spaces, adding to a sense of foreboding and menace. You can see where The Long Good Friday (1979) got its inspiration from.
Michael Apted fills the running time with raw dialogue, boorish and misogynistic nudity, sexual threat and taut violence. Awkward humour comes in the form of hamster eating headline comedian Freddie Starr as a petty crook. In a film rich in repellent sleaze from beginning to end, the comic relief is a welcome distraction. Apted later went back to gentler fair such as Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) and documentaries.
The late David ‘eyebrows’ Hemmings is great value, playing against type. As for Keach, it’s always a pleasure to try and work out his indeterminate accent- it sounds like he was born on a plane over the Atlantic and grew up in Canada via England.
The Squeeze is available on DVD from the little-known Warner Archive label, where hard-to-find films are, in effect, made to order, region-free. MGM and Universal are following suit with their ‘Limited Edition’ and ‘Vault’ series. Or try searching for a huge clamshell plastic VHS copy with the anachronistic “X” certificate put in the margin on the back of the box- the arresting cover, with a hooded man holding a double-barrelled shotgun, is hard to miss.